Full Sutton Prison opened in 1987 as a purpose-built maximum security prison for men. Over the years it has held some of the most difficult, violent and dangerous criminals in the country.
In March 2000 the Home Office ordered an inquiry into Full Sutton after evidence emerged of racism among prison officers at the jail. The evidence centred on a log of an Asian inmate's phone conversations kept by two prison officers.
The prison was criticised again in January 2003 when it emerged that inmates at Full Sutton were being paid as an incentive to learn to read and write. Payments of between £1 to £3 were being made to prisoners on successful completion of literacy and numeracy courses at the jail.
A report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2005 stated that gangs inside the prison were arranging "fight clubs" to pay off debts. The level of bullying and violence was so great that many wings were unsafe. There was evidence that gangs who had been operating on the streets continued to function inside the prison using intimidation. Security concerns had led to prisoners being denied access to outside sports.